Wednesday, 30 July 2008
There are some things I'll make an effort to watch. New Tricks. Foyle's War. Doc Martin.
Some I'll watch if they're on and I'm in the mood (ie with nothing better to do.) Frost. Neighbours. Dine With Me.
Sport? - Tennis, Formula 1, Gymnastics when its on the Olympics.
Documentaries? stuff on Volcanoes, Earthquakes et al, Climate Change. New stuff on animals. Some psychology stuff like the new one - What makes me - if that is the correct title. I watched the one on John Barrowman and found it interesting, so I'll watch the next. Stuff about people going to live in France, because we thought about doing it and decided not to.
Films? Nothing too dark, gory, camera jumping all over the place sort of stuff. I watched The Horse Whisperer last week.
Can't think of anything else. How about you?
Saturday, 26 July 2008
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
M&B Romance, 2008
I stick to the Historical line (usually) but picked this one off the shelf because the author’s name is one I recognise, and I’m trying to get a better grasp of the kind of writing M&B require. I wasn’t disappointed. Ms Alward’s plot is deceptively simple: Jonas and Shannyn part when he joins the army. Two weeks later she discovers she is pregnant, chooses not to tell him, and when he returns six years later, he is a wounded war vet not pleased to discover she has kept his daughter from him.
The plot may be simple, but the conflict is not, and the author depicts it from both sides with absolute fairness. The writing is not showy or over emotional, but I salute it because it selects just the right word for the task. Below is one description that gave me an instant picture of the hero – without using what I call obvious words like pecs, abs or muscles.
When I reached the end of the story I was surprised at the lack of a final sex scene because that’s what I’m used to in Historicals. But I was not disappointed. I didn’t check the Line before I brought it home, but the Romance Line doesn’t do sex, and if the writing is like Ms Alward’s, it doesn’t need it. The emotion was all there without it – the longing, the wish for closeness, to share, to understand, the fear of hurt. The scene where Jonas finally meets his daughter was short, simple and so touching it brought tears to my eyes. That doesn’t happen often, let me tell you.
I learned a lot from this book. I also enjoyed it as a Good Read. I’m sure you will too.
Monday, 21 July 2008
Friday, 18 July 2008
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Julia Grint’s book Bastles explains: “During the 14th century, in an attempt to repopulate an area made a dangerous economic desert by Anglo-Scots warfare, Edward III encouraged what we would term ‘relocation’ to the Border region.”
“The people were chosen quite deliberately as being capable of brutish and violent behaviour; the settlers were brought in to form a protective ‘pale’ or bulwark and needed to be suitable for that purpose.”
In exchange for land and low rents, the King required military service on demand, and at first that worked well.
Taken together with a fascinating introduction that helps you step into the shoes of the Charltons, the Fenwicks, the Armstrongs, Royal machinations, the politics of the time and the geography that dictated the lifestyle, the book sets the scene.
The focus then narrows until it is on the holders of the names and graynes themselves – the bearers of the main surnames and subgroups formed by their descendents.
We learn about their activities, houses and even their clothes.
Bastles is published by Ergo Press, priced £7.99, and available from Cogito Books in Hexham, among other outlets.
See the full report at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday 11th July 2008
I can think of some local families who won't be too pleased at having their forebears labelled thugs.
Monday, 14 July 2008
I hear some weird and wonderful expressions around these days. I am reliably told that LOG LINES, SOUND BITES AND ELEVATOR PITCH all refer to the art of pitching your novel to an editor in the shortest number of sentences and yet still managing to make it sound riveting. "Imagine you are in an elevator and that's all the time you have to make your pitch," chirrups an American author. They should be so lucky. Don't they know that in the UK a tall building is all of eight floors and by the time you've realised who is in the lift with you, you've barely got two words out before you've arrived? If you live in London you might be luckier, I suppose. There's always the GPO tower, but then, what self-respecting editor would be fooling about there?
I saw these on a friend's blog - and howled. Thank you Ginger
BREASTED AMERICAN (babe or chick)
LIGHT-HAIRED DETOUR OFF THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY (dumb blonde)
HORIZONTALLY ACCESSIBLE (easy)
PREVIOUSLY ENJOYED COMPANION (has been around)
LOW COST PROVIDER (two-bit hooker)
VERBALLY REPETITIVE (nag)
LIQUID GRAIN STORAGE FACILITY (beer gut)
OVERLY CAUCASIAN (a bad dancer)
RECTAL-CRANIAL INVERSION (acts like a total ass)
REAR CLEAVAGE (butt crack)
FOLLICLE REGRESSION (balding)
Sunday, 13 July 2008
I'm not sure that this is an accurate assessment of me, but it was fun to do. And who knows, there may be a grain of truth in it. I'd much rather have been Lizzy, but since I don't have sisters, that sort of narrowed down the options in the answers.
I've taken the plunge and order 3 titles from the Book Depository. Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester; Jane Austen: the World of her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye, and Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. The first two I borrowed from the library and read while on holiday last month, so I know the worth of them both. The last title is fashionable at the monent on several websites, not least that of Michele Styles.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
After receiving the latest rejection from HM&B (after a year and a half!) on my Viking story, I borrowed a Sharon Kendrick from the library. I was tempted to hide The Sheik's Unwilling Wife because dh would scoff, I know he would. Much to my surprise I enjoyed the writing, though the story line is relatively simple. At 184 pages it is relatively short, too.
I've seen Ms Kendrick on brief snippets advertising M&B this year and understand she is one of their best and most successful writers. At last, I realised, by reading her story, how much internal conflict M&B want. I wish I'd done this ages ago, but there you are - we learn as we go. Then I began polishing/changing my latest wip, and thought - I'm not so far away now. I seem to have got the right idea at last. Though I do wonder why I didn't "get this" from all the historical M&B titles I've been reading over the last couple of years. Perhaps Ms Kendrick just does it better.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Not my sole interest, shall we say. I have been looking for an image that encapsulates his ferocious concentration on the ball, and the second picture (taken by Julian Finney/ Getty Images) comes closer to it.
What I really want is the moment before he hits the ball, when he reminds me of one the hunting animals with prey in sight - the same intense concentration. And it isn't just for that one ball, nor that one game, but for entire matches; the fascination is how he manages to maintain that level for two, three hours or more.
There's also his sheer commitment to return everything, no matter how difficult, and to return it with interest. His physical stamina is incredible, but his mind must be his most powerful weapon. He seems to think positive all the time, no matter what people like Federer throw at him - and Federer is a man who can deliver the most telling shots without effort.
Tennis players must think very quickly. Tennis balls travel the length of the court in normal play at something close to 90 mph and the players must have reflexes that are truly phenomenal. Hard enough to get the racquet to the ball and return it safely, never mind turning the shot into an attack as well.Some of this I may well be able to incorporate into a hero at some point. Not that my heroes play tennis, you understand; but I can try and instil some of the relentless "attack" into a sword fight or a verbal battle. It is astonishing how much sport we can observe, absorb and use in writing fiction.
My current hero lives in Regency times, and he needs to be a bit of an action man at times. If I could conjure up a little of Nadal's intensity for him, I think it would be good. I should certainly enjoy writing it!
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Random views of the countryside. A winery - Chateau Reynardie
The church on the road to Bergerac
This is me posing beside a hay bale with the mill in the background
24th Hottest day so far. 26C inside first thing in the morning, almost 27C when we went to bed. The heat doesn’t dissipate overnight like it does in England. I have no idea how hot it was outside, but it still felt cool to walk indoors! We slept with the duvet cover and no duvet inside.
Driving with the top down on the car is bliss in this sort of heat.
30th Heat continues but the air is so still, and the little black flies are a nuisance. So are the flies, wasps, hornets and the B52 bombers that crash about the place and stun themselves by flying into walls. I rescued a 2 inch long beetle with horns from the bottom of a bucket where it lay on its back, pathetically waving all its legs in the air. It walked half a yard and next time I looked it was on its back again. ‘It won’t last,’ grunted dh.
I got a grass stalk and flipped it over and off it plodded. A lizard ran out and bit it in the neck (if beetles can be said to have a neck) but the beetle just reared up and ignored it. The lizard, all of six inches long, eyeballed it for a minute and then watched it walk away. The beetle marched right up to the brushwood fence and proceeded to march vertically up to the top. Once there it found the edge to prickly, and to my surprise it opened a double pair of wings and flew off!
1st July Very hot again. 27.8C (82F) inside. So still, no wind at all. Getting stickier, suspect another storm on the way. Our last day, so we began final clean up, packing. No wine tonight.
2nd July Lightning storms overnight. I woke to see the flashes lighting the sky but no sign of thunder. Rain, grey skies in the morning, and a lot cooler. We were anticipating a lovely sunny drive north with the top down. Now we will be in shorts and skimpy tops (well, I will. Dh will avoid the skimpy top!) and no doubt freeze.
We left at 7.50am and drove back to St Malo, where we stayed in a Campanile overnight. I like Campaniles. I know what to expect, and they’re always good. This one had a really excellent tv and I discovered Wimbledon! Better still, it was men’s quarter final day and I got to see both Federer and Nadal
This pic is from the Daily Telgraph after Rafa's won the final.
The journey was uneventful. 10.30am to 6.30pm on a bright sunny day and we crept into Portsmouth and viewed all the old aircraft carriers – Invincible, Illustrious – and the old wooden ships Warrior (1860) and Victory (1805) and docked ten minutes late. On the car deck we couldn't get into our car. Not enough space to get either door open, so there we were, the only two people standing until the cars began to roll off the ferry. Dh managed to get in as the cars began to leave, moved the car forward a couple of feet which was all it took for me to get my door open, and I got in just in time to keep up with the line. Talk about a tight squeeze!
The MGB GT had been dumped in plain view. It would have been last on, and first off, both times by some kind of low loader. That classic car had all the rest of us waiting for over an hour…
Then we set off to drive home. We finally got to our door about 2am.
Monday, 7 July 2008
If you click on the pics, they should all enlarge.
Beynac is definitely a place for romantic medievalists. For 7 euros you get to walk around what they call the enceinte which I always think means preganant but in this case means surrounding wall and some of the building. The States Chamber building is three floored and impressive. The guard room is so dark we blundered around by feel. Above that is a huge room with a wooden floor that looks as if its been there since 1100 or so. I stepped out onto it gingerly at first. There are all sorts of curious little corners, an oratory and rooms, most looking out over the precipice to the river. Easy to imagine the demoiselle sitting in the sunshine, sewing. Or freezing in winter, huddled in a blanket trying to avoid the drafts.
There is evidence for lots of domestic buildings within the enceinte but most have gone now. But outside the walls, domestic residences abound on the top of the jutting rock 150 metres above the Dordogne. There are restaurants, craft shops and a church. People live there, and it is amazing to find a modern car parked up in a garage that seems impossible to reach on four wheels. If it got in, how will it ever get out? Enough to give nervous drivers the heebie jeebies.
The walk down is easy, with time to notice the things you missed as you panted your way up. This is a close-up of the old stone tiles that make up the roof. Yes, it has grass and flowers growing on it. Not unusual. Beneath the overhand is what I think is an owl window.
All over Perigord, houses are built with triangular owl windows in the roof. They allow the hunting owls into the roof spaces to clean out the mice and whatever else happens to be living there that the occupants rather wished shouldn't be living there. Kinda cute, eh?
Hear a thump and a squeak in the middle of the night, and turn over and go to sleep. It's not Dracula in the attic, just the owls hunting down the little creatures.
H'mmm. Not sure about that.
19th Another hot day, but this time we took the bedding to the Laverie, left it for a service wash and then drove on to Beynac. It took us an hour to walk up to the Chateau – we’d call it a castle – through narrow, cobbled twisting lanes and I was ready to sit the moment we got within range of the chateau itself. Persuaded dh it would be good to have lunch before looking around.
Saturday, 5 July 2008
This is yours truly surveying the damage. You can tell from the state of the bolly that we didn't totally beat off the mini flood.
By the next day all that water had soaked away into the limestone and you'd never know it had rained. It
14th Weather sunny, then grey
15th Poor weather. As tablets cured the rhume des foins we’ve been working outside, clearing dead wood and invasive brambles. I have to say dh does the hard work. At the moment I do no more than gently snip without bending too much and only after I've given the painkiller time to work. Dh got bitten very badly and is covered in lumps and bumps, all extremely itchy. Now we need medication for the dreaded mosquito bites!
16th Raining when we awoke. I am down to one painkiller today as pain is slowly receding. Went off to replenish supplies in Bergerac. Dh bought elastic bands impregnated with citronella, reputed to keep mossies away. He wears one bright yellow band on his wrist, one on his ankle and looks rather trendy.
17th More grey clouds. France is really not hospitable this year. Rain threatened on and off all day. We had planned to walk to Clement de Beauregard three miles along the valley. Well, in the afternoon, we plucked up courage and went. 3.4k there and 3.4 k back, with a tour around the place in between. It was hot, the kind of steam bath heat under grey skies without a hint of a breeze, and the last half mile was up hill – cruel.
With all this unusually poor weather I have lots of time to read newspapers, and in the Sunday Times Books Supplement 15/6/08 I found a piece on Richard and Judy’s book club. Star of the Sea sold 14,000 copies between 2002-2004 before it was included in the first 10 books on their list. It went on to sell 600,000 and changed the publishing industry’s perceptions overnight. (I started reading, but didn't finish it, found it far too depressing.)
The article goes on to say: “the use of the word “literary” to define a book indicates a deep chasm between popular storytelling and high culture, a chasm unknown to Dickens and Shakespeare. Books shortlisted for the Man Booker or the Costa may do well, but they stand little chance of breaking through into the mass market.” How true.
It calls the British Book business incompetent. “Since the abolition of the retail price maintenance ( a thing this writer remembers fighting against) power has shifted from the publishers to the bookshops, and they, in turn, have aggregated into a few big chains, primarily the near monopoly of Waterstone’s. This has made publishing absurdly timid in its approach to marketing.”
Amanda Ross says the publishers “are all really nice people”, but she cannot understand why they want to use and reuse successful covers. (I have noticed a plethora of headless females in Tudor costume. Possibly Phillippa Gregory’s series started it, but now they proliferate everywhere.) She is also shocked to discover that publishers must pay to have display slots in shops. Don’t be fooled, she says, that these are “top picks” - they only criteria to got them there is money.
Friday, 4 July 2008
8th Cloudy grey skies continue. So does the hay fever. Dare not go outside as local farmers are cutting hay. Spent time with mop and bucket cleaning up after the builders.
9th Sunny. Hurrah! Hay fever still with me. Resort to taking Zyrtecset. The label says it cures Rhinites, conjonctivities allergiques and crises d’urticaire, whatever they are. Reading Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester and Jane Austen – the World of her novels by Deirdre Le Faye. Thunderstorm in the evening.
10th Grey skies and cold! Second thunderstorm 5pm-ish. The creek at the bottom of the field is flooded.
11th Misty morning. Went shopping at M. Leclerc’s hampered by painful back no doubt brought on by days of excessive floor washing and extremely hard beds. I could hardly get in or out of the Honda, which is very low to the ground, because I could not bend spine. Must have looked amusing but it felt b-a-d. Shows how inactive I have been for the past few months.